The Buckeyes got their first win over a ranked opponent and strung together consecutive league wins for just the second time this season. And they did it with a small lineup. Here are my major takeaways from what OSU fans hope is a momentum building win.
- Buckeyes Go Super Small: Indiana plays a small lineup, not starting a player over 6-7, so Matta countered with his own small unit. He went with the same starting five that he did against Northwestern, but Amir Williams, Anthony Lee and Trey McDonald combined for just six minutes against the Hoosiers.
- No Amir: Including Amir Williams in the list of big men combining for six minutes was kind of me considering the senior didn’t see the court. The senior had started 79 consecutive games in which he was healthy before Northwestern and now has just three minutes in the last two games combined.
- Crean a big fan of Scott: Man, Tom Crean loves Shannon Scott. The Indiana coach raved about him in the postgame press conference. Every time he had praise for Russell (which was often) he also extended it to Scott.
- Trust in Tate: Clearly, Matta trusts Jae’Sean Tate. After all, the coach inserted the freshman into the starting lineup the past two games. That trust was further validated by the fact that Tate was the second-to-last starter to get a rest (only Thompson played longer without a break) and finished with a team-high 35 minutes.
- Slow, not sluggish start: The Buckeyes started slow against Indiana, falling behind 9-2, and it would be easy to say it was similar to their other poor starts this season. I don’t think so.
- Big win to build on: Not only was beating Indiana big for the buckeyes confidence and their standing in the Big Ten, it was big for their postseason chances. Ohio State entered the game 0-5 against the RPI Top 50. Now, they are 1-5 with a chance at another big win with Maryland in town Thursday.
That left Marc Loving and Sam Thompson as the nominal ‘bigs’ on the court for Ohio State and there were times when only one of them was out there. An extremely small lineup of Shannon Scott, D’Angelo Russell, Kameron Williams, Jae’Sean Tate and Loving proved effective at the end of the first half.
“Just in terms of we’re 21 games into the season now and I think as a staff and even these guys have a pretty good understanding that we've gotta put the team out there that’s going to do the job and do it with all the little things,” Matta said when asked about the bigs minutes. “Not saying that Amir's never going to play again, I hope that he does, obviously today was unique, but on Thursday night I hope we see him out there ready to go.”
“I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time, today doesn’t change that at all,” he said of Scott. “He’s going to play in the NBA for a very long time, Shannon will. And deservedly so because he understands the game so well, he moves it, he makes the game easier for everybody else.”
Perhaps most impressive to me was Tate’s ability to keep his trademark energy throughout the game despite more minutes.
Ohio State was playing with energy early, getting to the rim and cutting hard, they just weren’t finishing while Indiana couldn’t miss.